You know how in movies, one character will have done something wrong, like cheat on a test or steal something important, and another character will take the fall for them? I feel like that almost never happens in real life. More often you’ll see people doing just the opposite, like if you yell at a group of kids to ask who threw the baseball and they all start pointing fingers or when some trouble-making teens hear a teacher coming and even the ones not involved start running. Being blamed is bad enough but being blamed for something you didn’t do is even worse. It’s not normal to voluntarily submit to that.
Unless, perhaps, you are Judah. At the beginning of this chapter, Judah, Benjamin, and Joseph’s other brothers are just starting to head back to Canaan, grain in tow. Joseph’s guards come charging after them, accusing them of stealing a very precious cup from Joseph and demanding proof that they didn’t take it. All of the brothers open their bags to prove they haven’t hidden the cup anywhere, because, as far as they know, they haven’t stolen anything. Truth is that Joseph personally hid his cup in Benjamin’s bag to test them all. Once the bag is discovered, the guard demands that only Benjamin be taken prisoner while the rest of them go free, but all eleven brothers pack their things and head back to Egypt anyway.
Upon arrival, Joseph reinforces the fact that he wants Benjamin to pay for his crime, not the rest of them. Judah then musters up his courage and literally pours his heart out to Joseph, telling him his own story. He describes how his father lost his beloved son years ago and how he clings to Benjamin now. He explains, respectfully, yet firmly, like a man with his mind made up, that there is no way Benjamin is staying here. Judah would rather die than wound his father again by taking away his son. Instead, Judah asks that he might stay and be a slave in Benjamin’s place. With bated breath, the brothers wait for Joseph’s answer.
The Treasures Within:
No Greater Love Than This
There were so many astonishingly loving and sacrificial character traits displayed by Joseph’s brothers in this chapter that it’s almost crazy. After all, as far as they knew, Benjamin was guilty. He had taken that darn cup, like an idiot, and so he deserved the punishment, no matter how severe! But when the crime is uncovered, it’s like that thought crossed none of their minds because they all go right back to Egypt to try to work something out. This alone revealed a significant change!
But the way Judah acted must have been a complete shock to Joseph. We have seen how Judah has changed and improved over the years, but Joseph has little to no idea. Judah risks his life to plead for his brother’s and then doubles down by offering his own life. As he talks to Joseph, you can see so much of Judah’s heart. He accepts God’s sovereignty in verse 16, acknowledging that He has allowed this situation to take place. In verse 30, Judah sympathizes with his father and his deep love for Benjamin, even though it probably still stung to know his father loved Benjamin more.
All in all, Judah and his brothers thought solely of Benjamin and not themselves. Even though Benjamin deserved punishment, they were willing to take it, no matter how severe, in his place. This kind of attitude goes completely against all normal and natural thoughts of self. It goes against the idea of justice and fairness, which are supposed to be good things! It is love. It is true love. The perfect, preferred son of Rachel was truly, deeply beloved by these men.
God’s Message To Us:
“The love I have for you is the love I will place in you for others.” How many of us would really, truly do something like this for a family member? What about a friend? A stranger? Someone who hates us? Donald Trump? As intense as the love was for Joseph’s brothers to Benjamin, it was just a shade of the love of God towards all of us. Jesus did the exact same thing as Judah. He put his life on the line for people who deserved punishment anyway. The only difference is that Jesus did it for all sorts of people, from bad to the worst of all. Think about it. He died for Hitler, for slave owners, for the KKK members, for pedophiles and child molesters, for murderers, for rapists, and the list goes on. That kind of love is blinding in its power. Mere human language cannot begin to describe it. So many of us go about our days ignoring that love. We don’t think about it as often as we should. Yet if we would turn to it, if we would accept it, can you imagine how transformed our lives would be? God’s love is powerful. God’s love changes people. It changed Judah and Simeon and Levi and all of them. It will change me. It will change you.
What do you think about this chapter? What did God teach you and show you when you read it?